October 3, 1924
MY HERO OF THE CIVIL WAR.
Thirteen-Year-Old Girl Gives Bit of Heretofore Unwritten History.
The following paper was written by Miss Naoma Dickenson, aged thirteen years, of North Tazewell, Va., in competition for a prize offered by the U. D. C. Chapter. While it did not win the prize, it deserves recognition for its originality and the bit of heretofore unwritten history.
In order to give a true conception of this wartime hero, I'll have to go back to tender years, when imagination swells and buds, and after long years his dream become a reality.
As a boy in his Massachusetts home, my hero had heard wonderful stories of the Southland told by an older sister who had frequently visited a historical old Virginia home. He could picture the great Southern plantations in all their marvelous beauty, the picturesque old colonial mansions, with the many negro slaves about. This became the most interesting topic that ever came into his young life, and he, like all normal boys that find a very gratifying subject, often propounded questions even beyond comprehension and where they sometimes became a source of irritation. This happened in this case, and as none of the family would busy themselves to answer further questions, his mind ran quickly to his father's great library, thinking that among so many books there must be something about Virginia that he would like to read. To his delight, he found many things that widened his imagination until he had a little fairyland encased in his brain worth more than gold to him, and no little time did he spend in this fairyland of his.
As he comes up on through the years, just where fairies cease to exist, he sees new visions far out into the future. There are rumors of war against this land of enchantment that he had lived so long with his fairies and learned to love. This brought unrest into his once carefree life, and as time speeds onward rumors become more and more numerous, and a tenseness now filled the air; even a sense of hatred for the South began to mold itself in almost every Northerner's heart. Speakers appeared here and there over the North arousing the young manhood, inciting them to rise against their foe when the warning signal sounded.
The boy heard all the speeches possible from the Northern side, and tried to sooth his troubled conscience, for he felt the south was being unduly treated; yet he did not want to fight against kith and kin and his own homeland, but there was no question as to where his sympathy rested. He guarded his secret with the utmost care, for by this time feeling was running high, and the family, except for himself, were extremely embittered against the cause of the South and would have been in flaming wrath had they known he daily longed to help instead of fight us.
He could bear the strain no longer; so he made up his mind to quietly walk out from home, say no good-by words, and take the long road leading out into the unknown... But with eyes firmly turned toward the Southland, his ears were tuned to hear the cry for help south of the Mason-Dixon Line. When he had crossed over, he knew he had forever turned his back on his people and childhood home, all for the love of justice to his once beautiful fairyland. He left his old world behind and put on, whole-hearted, the Southern armor. He had not gone far beyond the border when he was spotted and arrested for a Northern spy and roughly handled, but before long made his escape, only to be rearrested for the same offense. Then he again escaped, only to be arrested the third time and ordered court-martialed. A skirmish released him upon this occasion By this time he was getting farther into the South, where his identity as a Northerner became more and more acute, and for the first year he did nothing but scout around and try to make the boys in gray understand he was one of them. He found this a tedious task, for he was constantly being arrested as a spy, but again and again Providence intervened. Finally, the time came when he was accepted into the ranks of our army and allowed the privilege of helping to defend the cause he believed to be right.
Not long ago, I rode to Maple Shade Cemetery behind a hearse bearing the remains of an aged warrior. A goodly number of old veterans in the funeral cortege were talking about happenings of the War between the States, as is their custom when together, and from them I heard this expression about my hero, which ran like this: "There were many plucky soldiers among our boys. One fellow in our regiment was badly shot while bearing the flag, but he held on calling for help. Don't let the flag fall! Don't let it fall boys! It swayed to and fro, but did not fall. He held on with death-like grip until a soldier released it, then he himself went down."
He was wounded twice after this and carried two of these bullets to the end of the way. His comrades have told me they knew no braver man in battle, and if the North had produced more of his type, there would have been no lost cause for the south.
For a long period of time after the cannon ceased to roar and quiet reigned over the land, my hero dared not write back home. He knew the bitterness and sorrow there. A brother had been killed in battle near Richmond, and he learned later that they fought the same battle in opposing armies. He never quite recovered from this and deeply regretted having knowledge of it.
For 20 long years he remained away from his boyhood home, waiting for the scars to heal, but the love he bore for the south after the war ended was even greater than back in his fairyland days, and no thought had ever come into his mind to desert the tattered and torn land and flag for which he had fought and bled. A half dozen years now he has been sleeping the sleep of the just. We found inclosed with his will a little paper, neatly folded, that bore these lines: "To my children: No land in all the world is half so dear to me as where I found your mother, wooed and won her, and there builded our nest."
This little poverty stricken love nest was builded upon Virginia's soil, where he chose to live out his life rather than return to his homeland, where a fortune awaited him, willed, however, only to be used in the North.
Lee and Jackson are a monument of love in every Southerner's heart. We how at their shrine, but this private who felt the call of duty in a land not his own accepted the challenge which forever barred the door that creaked with pain and boldly took the road strewn with thorns and brambles and found for the privilege to fight for the principles of an honest soul, and who rejected the blue to wear the gray - he's my hero,... and my mother's father.
[Luther Hart Clapp, known in his later days as Dr. L. H. Clapp, was born in East Hampton, Mass., and was reared in East and North Hampton, which are adjoining towns. He came South at the outbreak of war, and in the closing year married a Virginia girl whom he met at Lebanon, the county seat of Russell, and lived there for many years, then moved to Pennington Gap, Va., at which place he died and was buried by the side of his wartime bride.]